#425 TEI using outmoded ISO 5218 for sex value attribute


TEI uses ISO 5218:2004 to assign sexuality of persons in a document ( with attributes being given as 1 for male, 2 for female, 9 for non-applicable, and 0 for unknown). This is an outmoded and problematic representation of sexuality, and in particular formally assigns women to be secondary to men.

There are other discussions online regarding how best to tackle sexuality in markup, and the problems in using ISO 5218 - see the w3c lists here: http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-contacts-coord/2010JulSep/0010.html .

I would like to see TEI move away from enshrining women as the second sex in their markup - as Steven Ramsay tweeted:
<author>Simone de Beauvoir</author> <sex value="2">female</sex> *sigh*

Can a discussion be had about how best to achieve this? Your current approach is both outmoded and offensive.


Feature Requests: #487


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  • Lou Burnard

    Lou Burnard - 2013-01-23

    Sorry to come to this particular party a bit late. Here are my views:

    1. Renaming @sex to @iso-sex is fine by me (not @sex-iso, please) but if we do that we have to deprecate @sex, I think
    2. By the same token i've no problem with renaming sex@value to sex@iso-value, and deprecating sex@value.
    3. if there is any evidence of people wanting coded values for sexuality or gender more subtle than those provided by the ISO standard, by all means add @sexRef to <person>, but it makes no sense to add it to <sex> (since what would it be pointing to if not a <sex> element in which the particular constellation of factors concerned was described?). So far as I am aware however the only requirement is to encode quite coarsely. Happy to be proved wrong of course.
    4. I'm unhappy with using @ana for this -- it's not an interpretation, it's a (possibly reductive) coding/classification of information already represented in full within the <sex> element.
    5. the difference between personGrp and listPerson is a bit subtle: a personGrp can have a @sex iff it's a group of people acting as one, sexed, individual; a listPerson on the other hand cannot have a @sex imho

  • BODARD Gabriel

    BODARD Gabriel - 2013-01-23


    2. I prefer the idea of renaming sex/@value -> @iso-sex, in parallel with (and defined by the same class as) the attribute on <person>. I can see why the idea of naming an attribute sex/@sex looked silly when this was first designed (but cf the parallel of certainty/@cert and precision/@precision, which I assert are Good Things, because they can be defined in a single place).

    3. I don't think <sex> is an element that defines a sex is it (although that would be useful); it's just a free-text way of defining a person's sex, and so liable to normalization in exactly the same way as the attribute on <person>.

    (5. Side issue: presumably you could have a listPerson broken up into 1 sub-listPerson containing all the men, another containing only women, and a third containing all the intersex athletes at the 2028 Olympics; wouldn't it be useful to be able to attach @sexRef to the containing list rather than to each person with it?)

  • Martin Holmes

    Martin Holmes - 2013-01-25

    The first link does look interesting. It breaks down sex/gender identification into two distinct questions: 1) How does someone self-identify, and 2) what sex was assigned to the person at birth. The options for the latter fit with ISO (although that doesn't address the offence of ordinal precedence). The second question is concerned with how people self-identify when asked, and this is an enumeration with the additional option of supplying a new value.

    I think this distinction fits with our proposed distinction between @sex and @sexRef.

  • BODARD Gabriel

    BODARD Gabriel - 2013-04-12
    • labels: TEI: New or Changed Element --> TEI: New Or Changed Element
    • status: open --> open-accepted
  • BODARD Gabriel

    BODARD Gabriel - 2013-04-12

    At the TEI Council meeting in Brown, 2013-04, we agreed to change the datatype of person/@sex, personGrp/@sex and sex/@value from ISO 5218 to data.word, so as to allow the use of locally defined values or alternative published standards to be used in these attributes. I will make this change in data.sex, and also change the prose to reflect this in all the affected elements (while retaining a reference to ISO and one or two other useful standards).

    In the meantime (and in another ticket) Syd is going to suggest changing data.enumerated to data.word so that we can use that here and values such as "0", "1" will remain valid (currently a data.enumerated is data.name which has to begin with an alphabetic character, and would therefore break backward-compatibility). The datatype of data.sex may therefore eventually be changed to data.enumerated or similar, but all values valid against data.word will remain valid.

  • BODARD Gabriel

    BODARD Gabriel - 2013-04-12
    • labels: TEI: New Or Changed Element --> TEI: New or Changed Element
  • BODARD Gabriel

    BODARD Gabriel - 2013-04-13
    • status: open-accepted --> closed-accepted
    • Group: RED --> AMBER
  • BODARD Gabriel

    BODARD Gabriel - 2013-04-13

    Done at revision [r11913].



    Commit: [r11913]

    Last edit: BODARD Gabriel 2013-06-24
  • Melissa Terras

    Melissa Terras - 2013-04-14

    Great to see some movement on this! thanks for taking it forward - appreciated.

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